November 23, 2014

School board discusses exemptions to KORA

Debbie Hickman
Special to The Gardner News
Even though the Dec. 9 USD 231 Board of Education meeting agenda included Shining Star recognitions, a school safety update, Gardner Elementary renovation review, a new AP course request and the Wheatridge Middle School track renovation, the most time was given to the attorney to the district, Joe Hatley, and his presentation on the Kansas Open Records Act policy review.
Hatley opened by saying that his presentation on district open records policy was a shorter version of what he reviewed with board members in an executive session held during the Nov.11 board meeting. He did not make clear for whom the review was intended.
After establishing the definition of a public record, a mention of board policy 5700 and identifying district personnel who handle the KORA requests, the remainder of the presentation focused on what items would not be provided.  There are 52 exemptions allowed by law. Those that may apply to USD 231 include attorney-client privilege, individual employee records (except contracts), student records, correspondence between a government agency and a private individual and notes, preliminary drafts, recommendations, opinions and policy proposals. Emphasis was placed on the exemption of expressing of opinion and exchange of ideas from KORA and that only existing reports are covered.
Hatley stated that documents are not considered public records until they are “identified in open record”. He explained that the most current audit report was not a public record until it was discussed that night in open meeting.
Following a question by board member Rob Shippy, discussion turned to the electronic mail message policy which states that messages shall not be retained on the district’s archive system for more than 24 hours, except for messages that are subject to a litigation hold.  Ben Crosier, technology services, said that per policy, the archives only hold the message for 24 hours then it is purged.  He further explained that a purge does not occur in mail store.  A message will be retained on an individual mail store until such time it is deleted, and the trash bin emptied.  Crosier said that although the archives purge after 24 hours, discovery could be done on mail store.
Brad Chandler, board member, inquired if there was any type of automatic erasing of trash bin content by the system. Crosier was not able to answer that question and was going to look into it.  Shippy asked Hatley if anyone has ever challenged a 24-hour email policy, and the response was no.
Next, but not listed on the agenda, was a presentation by Christy Ziegler, educational services.  Ziegler read out loud the name of every report and who was responsible for the collection of data for that report.  She also explained that because raw data is collected and entered into a collection website, there is no tangible report.  If there is not a tangible document/report then it is not available under KORA.
The last question under this discussion came from Shippy to Mark Grannell, board president. Shippy asked if he had received and read an email from a district patron whose name was published on the district website indicating that he had not paid for a KORA request.
Shippy said this has been an ongoing situation, and he was tired of talking about it. Shippy asked that all names be removed from the published list so that this issue could be resolved. Grannell acknowledged Shippy’s request, but countered that he would look into it.  It was not until both Shippy and Mary Herbert, board member, stated that they wanted it done and over with that Grannell relented and said it would be taken care of.

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